Essay writing tutorial: Determining the Type

There are essays, and then there are essays. Obvious, right?

While you may simply have been assigned an essay, you could spend several hours analyzing your assignment and deciding how best to approach your topic. “Essay” can mean a lot of different things.

So, depending on the nature of the assignment, you may want to try one of couple different essay types that exist:

  • Narrative essay: the narrative essay tells a story, often from the writer’s own life experience. Students who don’t know what they’re getting themselves into often choose this essay type because they don’t understand the requirements of a narrative essay. It is by no means a cop-out, as, if you choose this type, your professor will be looking for examples of vivid writing that really draws the reader into your story. A simple lost of “and then this happened” sentences will definitely not do the trick.
  • Descriptive essay: this is a rather similar form to the narrative essay. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but don’t turn in a couple photos in place of a 3,000-word assigned essay. And don’t just write that the tree’s leaves were green. The descriptive essay is designed to find some deeper meaning behind a simple description of an object, person or situation. The best way to do this is to involve the reader’s (and therefore, the writer’s) emotions. Does a certain thing make you feel a certain way? Describe that, and why.
  • Expository essay: remember the “five-paragraph essay”? That was an expository essay. Expository essays are those technical academic documents that forbid the use of the first person or inclusion of the writer’s feelings. They probably will make up most of the essay writing you’ll do in school. This includes the compare-and-contrast essay, the “how to,” and the “cause and effect” paper. These essays typically consist of a thesis statement supported by documentation or research.
  • Persuasive essay: the persuasive essay can be a double-edged sword. While it can be find to sit and write about your own opinions on things, the onus of proof is on you when it comes to supporting your arguments, and your arguments have to be clear. “It’s not fair!” doesn’t cut it as supporting evidence in an essay like this. You need to be able to clearly document, as well as or better than if you were writing an expository essay, why you are right, and why the reader should come to agree with you.

There are other, stranger essay types, but these cover most of what you’ll be required to or can choose to write. Picking which one is often a matter of simply understanding what each one is. The assignment and your own personal approach will determine how you decide to tackle your topic.

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